I made a great discovery when I stopped staring at a woman on the beach

It was the crack of dawn and I couldn’t stop looking over at the woman a few feet away from me on the beach. I had come to watch the sunrise and she was getting on my nerves.

The woman, who was probably in her 60s, was hunched over, incessantly tapping and swiping on the screen of her cellphone instead beholding the breathtaking sunrise before us. It seemed pathetic, really – awesome beauty was right in front of her and she didn’t even notice. I wasn’t surprised though.

I noticed her on the beach the day before when she and her husband were sitting next to my family. She just sat there baking in the sun with her cellphone in hand and her neck craned forward, never looking up. And even when she got up to walk around in the water, she still kept the cell phone in her hand, swiping and tapping away.

Now she was in front of the finest that creation could offer and she was still looking down.

That’s a sad way to live, I thought.

Then the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: “It sure is, and you should know. You’re just as distracted from looking at the sunrise as she is, except you’re worse off. She’s only distracted by her phone – you’re distracted by your self-righteous desire to look over and judge her.”


I looked away from the lady, letting her be; and when I did, I discovered something: I was relieved. I could relax and fully enjoy the masterpiece that was unfolding before me, and I didn’t have to worry about her.

Scripture says: “In passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” (Romans 2:1). As Oswald Chambers writes in “My Utmost for His Highest”:

“If I see the little speck in your eye, it means that I have a plank of timber in my own. Every wrong thing that I see in you, God finds in me…. Stop having a measuring stick for other people. There is always at least one more fact, which we know nothing about, in every person’s situation.”

For all I know, the grandchild of that woman was in the intensive care unit and she was repeatedly checking her phone for an update. Maybe she was getting emails about a big financial decision. Or maybe she was just playing a game on her phone – why did I care?

God didn’t appoint me to evaluate that woman’s cellphone usage or look down on anyone else for that matter. He called me to love others. And while that may occasionally require me to point out a serious and legitimate wrong, I’m called to do it with loving humility (Galatians 6:1).

We need to give the world a break, stop looking for people’s imperfections and let God take care of the evaluating. In doing so, we’ll be able to dislodge the plank of timber from our eye and be in a better position to see the many beautiful things God has placed right in front of us.

This op-ed originally appeared at FoxNews.com. If you’d like an email with a weekly recap of what I’ve written, click here.  You can also keep up with my latest articles (and more) on Facebook or Twitter.